Haimo of Auxerre's Angry Smile: Emotional Experience in Ninth-Century Francia

© 2021 by Thomas A. E. Greene, Ph.D.. All intellectual property rights reserved. This edition copyright © 2021 by The Heroic Age.

Permissions granted for educational and personal purposes only.

Abstract: Haimo, the master of the monastic school at Saint-Germain (Auxerre) never wrote a treatise on emotions. Understanding his thoughts about anger, therefore, requires reconstructing them from the various references scattered throughout his commentaries and homilies. In this essay I perform that reconstruction. Haimo focused not on whether anger was good or bad, or on whether or not one should avoid it. Indeed, Haimo assumed that people would by nature become angry. Instead, he focused on the duration of anger once felt. Haimo's concern was for emotion as experience, and for the transformation of one emotional experience into another.

§1. Chapter Five of the Book of Amos reads like a litany of destruction. The prophet exhorted the people of Israel to turn away from idolatry and to seek God, and he catalogued the calamities that would befall them if they did not. Kingdoms would fall and the population would be decimated, Amos warned. In chapter 5:9 he describes God as "He that with a smile bringeth destruction upon the strong, and waste upon the mighty." In the mid-ninth century, Haimo of Auxerre (fl. 840–865) wrote a commentary on Amos. When he reached Amos 5:9, he offered a succinct interpretation: "God smiling signifies anger, because sometimes we smile when we are angry"1 (In Amos 5).

§2. While short, Haimo's one-sentence exegesis is anything but simple. Beneath this straightforward statement lies a host of difficult exegetical issues. But what stands out most from the standpoint of the history of emotions is the connection between anger and smiling. Haimo most likely followed Jerome's commentary on the same passage in imputing anger to God, even though that emotion is not explicit in Amos 5:9, nor does anger appear anywhere in the rest of the book. To explain the smile of an angry God, Jerome paradoxically denied that God actually smiled. Amos was able to describe God as smiling because "when someone is angry, they feign to smile, with their lips open a little, so that they might show the greatness of their anger" (Commentaria in Amos 2). For Jerome, this was no smile at all; his use of simulo, -are indicated the falseness of the expression (Lewis & Short define this as "to represent a thing as being which has no existence; to feign a thing to be what it is not"). Haimo rejected this interpretation, and departed from his patristic exemplar by linking the emotion to its expression. Amos provided the description of destruction for which Jerome offered an emotional interpretation, but Haimo thought that smiling could indicate anger.

§3. Connecting this brief but revelatory commentary to other references to anger that Haimo scattered throughout his exegetical work reveals something that Haimo would have allowed about himself: that he sometimes was an angry Carolingian. In fact, all Carolingians were, and more importantly could be, angry. The naturalness of this emotion made experiencing it permissible. It only became problematic when it endured.

§4. Haimo used specific vocabulary to describe emotions, most commonly motus and perturbatio. In doing so, he wrote in a long tradition, stretching back to Cicero (Rosenwein 2016, 16–34; 69–74). Both of these words reference movement, which is important to the way that Haimo understood the sinfulness of emotions. As the Amos commentary suggests, this raised the issue of the appropriateness of assigning emotions to God, especially given the vocabulary that Haimo used. His solution was, as Jerome did, to posit that for God anger (ira) was synonymous with judgment, and therefore not an emotion word. Only humans experienced emotional agitations such as anger, which Haimo viewed as mostly problematic.

§5. Anger was mostly problematic, but not always so. When Haimo wrote about an angry God, he also emphasized the desirability, or perhaps better, the necessity of transforming divine anger into divine mercy. God was constant, so the same language that indicated human emotions was inaccurate. But since God could be described as being angry, and then not, and since God was described as emotional because humans were emotional, changes in divine emotion validated the mutability of human emotion as well. The vocabulary of movement that Haimo used to describe human—but not divine—emotions carried with it two consequences. The first was that emotions were temporary, mutable states of being. The second was that becoming aware of an emotion (feeling it) meant that something had changed, that someone had moved from one state of being to another. It also implied the potential for further transformation. This is how Haimo parsed the difference between anger, and anger that was sinful. Sinful anger endured. Haimo taught and preached that Carolingians could be angry, as long as that they experienced another perturbatio soon thereafter.

I. Method and Approach

§6. The contours of emotions history since the beginning of the twentieth century have been well mapped. (Boddice 2018, 1–83, Rosenwein 2006, 1–31). There have been, broadly speaking, three categories of emotional analysis. First, emotions are "felt," because they are bodily sensations. Some take this to mean that there are a certain number of "basic" emotions that all humans have felt and continue to feel. Some do not. Either way, this approach treats affect purely as a bodily phenomenon. It is also, therefore, a universal one. People in the present "feel" in the same way as people in the past. This approach extends to recent interest in the neuroscience of emotions. The second category accepts these bodily perturbations, but argues that the emotion comes in the processing of those stimuli in the context that produced them. Emotions are, in the language of cognitive psychologists, goal-relevant statements or orientations. Here, emotions are not in the body as much as in the mind, and it is easy to see the attraction of the cognitivist approach for historians. Since the mental equipment that would process these stimuli (that is, culture) changes over time, so too must emotions have a history. A third position also exists, that no matter the biology or psychology of emotions, since those sensations and/or that processing must be expressed in language, the discourse used to frame, understand, and express them is all that really matters. Here context dominates, which allows for fruitful discussions of the social construction of emotions without having to decide between the competing arguments about their nature.

§7. This methodological division is real, but sometimes over-exaggerated. Indeed, as Barbara Rosenwein and Riccardo Cristiani remind us, historians of emotions rarely insist on a hard distinction between biology and culture (Rosenwein and Cristiani 2018, 62), and in her newest book on anger, Rosenwein argues from the premise that "we are bodies and minds" (Rosenwein 2020, 5). Any neat division between the two, or indeed between bodies, minds, and language, inadequately captures the complexity of emotion as lived experience. Rosenwein's approach is "to think in terms of emotional communities" (Rosenwein 2020, 165), an approach I take on here as well. I assume that Haimo belonged to multiple and overlapping emotional communities. Rosenwein defines these as "groups in which people adhere to the same norms of emotional expression and value—or devalue—the same or related emotions. (Rosenwein 2006, 2).

§8. Emotional communities are characterized by their dynamism. They intersect and overlap, exert hegemonic power and challenge its dominance. They are "open and porous," as fluid and as complex as any identity, (Rosenwein 2020, 4). As everyone does, Haimo belonged to a number of emotional communities, for this essay most importantly to a large community defined by the textual tradition of scriptural exegesis, to a smaller community of contemporary and near-contemporary Carolingian intellectuals, and to one composed of (at least some) of his fellow monastic inmates at Saint-Germain. Through the comments that he made about anger we can see his interaction with all of these communities, however one-sided the perspective.

§9. Anger holds a venerable place in the historiography of medieval emotions studies, beginning with the essays edited by Rosenwein in Anger's Past. This germinal essay collection sought to innovate on a subject on which, with the exception of love, little work existed (Rosenwein 1998, 1). The scholarly record since the late 1990s serves as a testament to the vibrancy of medieval emotions studies. Historians of the later Middle Ages, perhaps most prominently those who study dispute resolution, have embraced emotions history generally, and studies of anger specifically (McGrath 2019, 16–19). Rosenwein herself recently returned to anger, this time with an expansive exploration of this emotion across time, space, and academic discipline (Rosenwein 2020). Although Rosenwein wrote about Carolingian anger in the context of Alcuin's (d. 804) treatise on the vices and virtues (Rosenwein 2016, 76), anger in the Carolingian period still remains mostly historiographically invisible. The sessions organized by Cullen Chandler and Rutger Kramer at the 53rd International Medieval Congress (Kalamazoo) in May 2017 brought together scholars to remedy this situation.

§10. Despite the "we" in his exegesis of Amos 5:9, Haimo did not intend to write about his own anger. Indeed, Haimo's surviving works only reluctantly reveal information of any kind about their author (Contreni 1991, 236). Nonetheless, a picture of Haimo's understanding of anger emerges by paying attention to those times when he mentioned anger in his explanation of scriptural passages, or when he responded to a source text that included words for anger. As interest in Saint-Germain and its monastic school has increased, scholars have taken this same approach to Haimo's corpus, beginning with Raymond Ortigues. Ortigues looked at Haimo's commentary on Romans and Apocalypse in L'École d'Auxerre, the 1991 volume of essays that reinvigorated the study of the Auxerrois masters (Ortigues 1991).

§11. More recently, other scholars have focused similarly on a selection of Haimo's exegetical output. John J. Contreni's careful reading of Haimo's explanation of Ezechiel linked passages about that prophetic text to the condition of the Carolingian Church. Contreni notes Haimo's allusions to the Adoptionism controversy from earlier in the ninth century and broader critiques of his clerical peers. Haimo emerges as a monk fully invested in the people living, and events occurring, outside the walls of Saint-Germain. In particular, Contreni argues, Haimo's biting criticism of the secular clergy reflected his experience in Auxerre, a strategic city (and bishopric) in the struggle between Charles the Bald and Louis the German in the 850s and 860s (Contreni 2002, 43–49). But Auxerre did not set the limit of Haimo's awareness. Where his contemporary John Scotus Eriugena (c. 815–c. 877) referred to Persians and Chaldeans in order to explain what a turban was, Haimo envisioned the headgear of Saracens (Contreni 2002, 33).

§12. In his 2006 publication, Ian Christopher Levy mines Haimo's commentary on the Pauline letters in a similar manner to uncover Haimo's Christology and his Trinitarian theology (Levy 2006). Similarly, in an essay from 2007, Sumi Shimahara studies in detail a specific Haimonian text, his commentary on Daniel, as "as a source for history" (en tant que source d'histoire) more than a source for theology (Shimahara 2007, 123). Through a careful reading of the three extant manuscript copies of this text, Shimahara places it in the context of the continuing reform efforts of Charles the Bald. Haimo, she argues, was sharply critical of Charles. He differed from Jerome, his most important patristic source, by writing a text that was "more reforming than polemical" (plus réformatrice que polémique) (2007, 123–164).

§13. This is not the only time Shimahara interrogates Haimo's entanglement with Carolingian secular elites. In the same collection in which Levy's essay appears, she ranges across the breadth of Haimo's extant work to tease out specific themes that relate to the exercise of secular power (Shimahara 2006). Auxerre in the mid-ninth century gave Haimo ample denunciatory fodder, and one of his chief complaints was emotional. Earthly rulers sinned through their pride (Shimahara 2006, 83–85). In this close reading of Haimo's scriptural interpretation, I adopt this same fruitful methodology to continue the conversation about angry Carolingians.

II. Emotional Agitation, Commotion, Perturbation

§14. Haimo, as was common for early medieval authors, described emotions as Cicero had, as a motus animi, an agitation of the spirit/soul (Rosenwein 2016, 75). Motus, along with commotus, and pertubatio (other commonly used words in this context) all imply motion or movement. Haimo used these same words when describing changes, often violent or dramatic, in the natural world. At the most basic, Haimo provided "a movement/disturbance of the air" (commotus aeris) as a literal definition when explaining the different meanings of wind in scripture (In Isaiam 3:64). Similarly, in the same commentary, he explained that when the prophet said "With shaking shall the earth be shaken" (Isaiah 8:20), he meant that "it will be moved with agitation (commotion movebitur)" (In Isaiam 2:24). Water joined air and earth in another of Haimo's homilies. The storm that arose as Jesus was sleeping on a boat with his disciples was a motus in Matthew 8:24, which Haimo glossed as porcella, which means a violent storm or hurricane (Homiliae 20).

§15. Haimo connected the natural world to human activity when he interpreted a disturbance as an emotional agitation. The Book of Micah opens with a scene of natural disaster. When God descends, the prophet warned in Micah 1:4, the mountains will melt like heated wax. The scriptural text used the verb consumentur, but in his commentary Haimo changed this to commoti sunt. He then interpreted the mountains that God would so violently agitate as the doctrines of the philosophers and the power of kings. But he developed a second, emotional interpretation. The height of the mountains represented the inflated pride of intellectual and political elites. Divine judgment replaced one undesirable emotional state with another, for "with pride destroyed," Haimo wrote "humility is raised up" (erecta est humilitas) (In Michaem 1).

§16. Emotions disrupted without any reference to the natural world as well. Thus Cain was "moved by envy" (invidia commotus) against Abel (In epistolam ad Romanos 1). Haimo described God in these same terms. In Chapter Eleven of the Book of Hosea, God thunders at the people of Israel through the prophet, threatening their destruction. He relents, however, claiming that "my heart is turned within me" (Hosea 11:8). Haimo explained this by noting that when God said this he demonstrated his wishes "with paternal affection" (paterno affectu), which sprang from the fact that he was viscerally moved (mea commota sunt viscera) to mercy instead of anger (In Osee 11). Mostly, though, Haimo described emotions as agitations that were unwelcome or harmful. Inebriation, specifically those whom Isaiah 5:22 called "mighty to drink wine" and "stout men of drunkenness," served as an analogy for the effects of certain emotional disruptions. Wine, explained Haimo, was the equivalent of "one of many perturbationes: namely, lust, greed, gluttony, envy." To create a parallelism with the Isaiah text, he then connected the stout men of drunkenness to the consumption of the stronger beverage sicera. He described this as "drunkenness, which contains within it all the afflictions of the vices." These two drinks, then, wine and sicera, he continued, are rightly called perturbationes because "they overturn the stillness of mind, and they make them drunk, and they cause them to know not what they do"2 (In Isaiam 1, 5).

§17. Haimo's concern about emotional agitation extended to what some might consider "positive" emotions as well. In Chapter Two of the Book of Joel, the prophet described a promise God made to the people of Israel in which he would restore all of the crops that had been destroyed by locusts, by beetles, by mildew, and by caterpillars (Joel 2:25). These four pests meant, to Haimo, "four different perturbations, by which the devil devours the human race. These are: desire and fear, joy and sadness"3 (In Ioel prophetam 2). Haimo ended his short exegesis of this verse here, with no explanation of why he included joy. Perhaps it was the intensity of joyous feelings that bothered Haimo. Whatever the reason, he again warned against what his contemporaries might consider "positive" or "good" emotions not just here but in his Zacharias commentary as well.

§18. Haimo acknowledged that his contemporaries might have questioned the inclusion of otherwise desirable emotions. While the list of emotions differed, in his commentary on Zacharias 1:20–21 he repeated the claim that emotions that potentially carried a positive valence could in fact be unwanted perturbationes. Unlike his shorter offering for Joel 2:25, Haimo developed an elaborate interpretation of this passage, specifically of the four horns mentioned in the original text. This eventually led him to Psalms 90:13, and to the four beasts (asp, basilisk, lion, and dragon) that the Psalmist claimed would be trod upon and trampled underfoot. These four persecutors of the church and the faithful, Haimo explained, were the four horns from the Zacharias passage, and "by these four horns, four agitations of the soul are able to be understood, two considered good and two considered bad, namely joy and hope, fear and sadness"4 (In Zachariam 1). The faithful, Haimo advised, should counter these with the four virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance.

§19. Later in his Zacharias commentary, Haimo explained the implications of being able to achieve virtuous activity. In the first verse of Chapter 4, an angel returned to Zacharias, and imparted to him a vision. The prophet described this as being awoken, as if he had been sleeping, and it was sleep that Haimo used as the point of departure for his explanation. Zacharias, he concluded, did not literally sleep but rather "was asleep to the cares and perturbations of the world, and therefore he was able to say with the betrothed 'I sleep, and my heart watches' (Song of Songs 5:2). He deserves to be woken by angels, and to be delighted by angelic sight and speech"5 (In Zachariam 4). Even though Haimo's readers were unlikely to see and hear angels and begin to prophesize, he nonetheless made clear the spiritual benefits of avoiding disruptions. Joy, hope, and happiness then, by implication, bothered Haimo simply because they were perturbationes. He believed that ideally, like Zacharias, everyone (or at least his monastic audience) should strive to be asleep to the world, and to whichever pertubationes that came with living within it. What was true of emotions generally was true for anger specifically. "Anger," wrote Haimo, "is a powerful agitation of the soul/spirit"6 (In epistolam ad Galatas 5).

III. Divine Anger

§20. Anger's powerful and negative valence required that Haimo explain the numerous scriptural examples of divine anger. His solution was twofold: 1) anger was a synonym for other words that were not emotions; and 2) God's anger and human anger were not the same. While he would occasionally use adjectival forms of furor when discussing divine anger, as he did for angry people, Haimo more frequently glossed ira with both vindicta and judicium when referring to God. Haimo made the connection to judgment clear in his Apocalypse commentary, building his interpretation around the "great press of the anger of God" mentioned in 14:19. This lacum irae meant a few different things to Haimo, all of them related to suffering in some way; one of these was that God "placed the conquered, that is the reprobate, into the press of the anger of God. By the press of the anger of God, the damnation of hell is understood, or the sentence of divine judgment, by which the reprobate are placed into the press"7 (In Apocalypsin 14).

§21. God's press, this time specifically a winepress, reappears later in John's Apocalypse, and this time it was not for the reprobate. After reading Apocalypse 19:15, Haimo concluded (or maybe better, lamented) that "by the winepress we can understand the tribulations of present life. 'God treads the winepress,' this is those who are in the winepress, that is all the elect, whom he purges through the difficulties of this life"8 (In Apocalypsin 19). The winepress is a fruitful metaphor for Haimo, who continued by explaining that as the wine represents the elect, extracted by their time in the press, so the pomace, then, represents the damnation of the reprobate.

§22. Divine anger equaled judgment, and Haimo used scriptural examples of it make a specific point about its nature. Hebrews 3:11 provides the context for this discussion ("As I have sworn in my anger: If they shall enter into my rest"). Haimo explained that one swears "to exaggerate the strength of something, so that it might instill fear in the listeners. And thus he is said to be angry in the human manner, when he himself always remains the same, in order that while we heard of his anger, we might fear to sin"9 (In epistolam ad Hebraeos 3). He applied this same interpretation to Isaiah 5:25. When God grew angry with his people, Haimo explained, "God is said to be angry not because he is subject to human perturbations but because we who sin, unless we hear about the anger of God, we will not fear him"10 (In Isaiam 5).

§23. Haimo's emphasis on the mutability of earthly, embodied emotion carried over when he discussed divine emotion. Just as he linked perturbationes to the diabolical activity represented by crop-devouring insects, Haimo also used it to signify God's constancy. Haimo may have used the vocabulary of emotions to describe God, but God was not emotional in the same way as humans. He often wrote of the connection between divine and human emotion to explain the difference between the two. Consequently, Haimo also elaborated upon the nature of divine anger, which was not the agitation that characterized human anger. "Yet although we read in many places that all-powerful God is angry," Haimo wrote in his commentary on Romans, "we ought not to believe that he was subject to any perturbation, because he remains always himself according to that which the Psalmist said: 'But thou art always the selfsame' (Psalms 101:28). His anger is called his vengeance and his retribution, which he exercises without changing, following that which the wisest speaker said: 'But thou judgest with tranquility' (Wisdom 12:18)"11 (In epistolam ad Romanos 5). Haimo returned to the immutability of God towards the end of his exegesis of Isaiah. After he drew a temporal distinction between furor and ira (discussed below), he qualified that statement by saying that it did not refer to God, to whom time does not apply (In Isaiam 63). As mentioned at the beginning of the essay, his understanding of divine anger as a simulacrum of human anger extended even to facial expressions. He knew that the smiling, destructive God of Amos was angry because "sometimes we smile when we are angry"12 (In Amos 5).

§24. Knowing that God was angry mattered, not just because sinners would then fear him, but also so that they could strive to transform God's anger into mercy. Just as God could be provoked to anger, so too could he be persuaded to be merciful. In Isaiah 30:15, God says to the people of Israel "If you return and be quiet, you shall be saved." If damnation was the judgment of an angry God, salvation, Haimo explained, was the consequence of undoing that anger. In response to this verse, Haimo wrote that by returning and being quiet (here understood in the sense of at rest), one "is able to be saved, turning the anger of God to mercy"13 (In Isaiam 30). Similarly, in his explanation of Micha, Haimo remarked that God "is not angry forever, but sometimes is merciful" (In Micheam 7, 168). Penance, naturally, is the mechanism of this transformation, as Haimo counsels later in the same commentary. "Gird your loins," the text of Isaiah 32:11 reads, to which Haimo adds "with the hairshirt of penance, and weep, so that you might be able to appease the anger of God"14 (In Isaiam 32). And again, still in Isaiah: "If, he said, you will seek the worthy rewards of penance, I will deliver you from the entrapment of evil and the anger of my indignation"15 (In Isaiam 51). Haimo treated the many other instances of divine anger similarly. Whether as a warning or a lesson, or an imitation of human anger, Haimo consistently urged the faithful to understand God's anger in relation to themselves and their behavior.

IV. Human Anger

§25. Chapter 63 of Isaiah opens with a description of God's power, God's indignation, and God's wrath. The Latin for this passage contains two words that are often treated as synonyms: ira and furor. The Douay-Rhiems translation of this passage dissembles, offering "indignation" for furor and "wrath" for ira. This choice obscures the close relationship between the two words, a relationship that Carolingian exegetes found noteworthy. Scholars, too, insist upon a nuanced and contextualized understanding of these two emotion words. In her important essay in Anger's Past, Catherine Peyroux reminds us that classical usage of furor set it apart from ira by its intensity (Peyroux 1998, 44–45). Not so for Haimo. Towards the end of his Isaiah commentary he suggested that the difference between the two was temporal: "furor is a sudden disturbance of the spirit, ira lasts for a longer time"16 (In Isaiam 63). In his commentary on Isaiah 5:22 he cemented their close relationship by describing anger and rage as sisters (ira, quae furoris soror est).

§26. When it came to anger, Haimo continued to find the natural world ripe with interpretive potential, as did Ambrosius Autpertus, whose Apocalypse commentary Haimo mined extensively. When the "first angel sounded the trumpet," wrote John in Apocalypse 8:7, "there followed hail and fire, mixed with blood." Haimo condensed and paraphrased Autpertus's longer comment on this verse. His epitome served to link all of these phenomena, the hail, the fire, and the blood, in a causal chain of emotions that began and ended with anger:

By hail the anger of almighty God is indicated, whence it is written: "The anger of God descends like hail." By fire, then, is understood the hatred and envy of the reprobate against the holy. For immediately as the apostles began to preach about the hail, that is, the judgment of God, there arose in the reprobate jealousy and hatred, which are designated by fire. The blood that followed the fire pertains to the damnation of the reprobate, because clearly just like murderers shedding human blood will perish, so too those who persecuted true preachers. As the Lord said: "He who kills his brother shall be in danger of the judgment" (Matthew 5:21); and John: "Whosoever hates his brother is a murderer" (1 John 3:15). It is not strange, then, if the elect come to life, and the reprobate incur anger. (In Apocalypsin 8).17

Elsewhere, Haimo used the first chapter of the Book of Joel, which the prophet began with a description of the destruction of land as an admonition against sins, including anger. Joel described a landscape in which "That which the palmerworm hath left, the locust hath eaten: and that which the locust hath left, the bruchus hath eaten: and that which the bruchus hath left, the mildew hath destroyed" (Joel 1:4). The three insects, caterpillar, locust, and beetle, became the sins of wantonness (luxuria), vainglory (inanis gloria), and gluttony (edendi ingluvies) respectively, within Haimo's allegorical interpretation. His interpretation of mildew is more complex. The biblical Latin text used the word rubigo, which can mean "mildew" but also means "rust." Haimo seems to have interpreted it as the latter, perhaps playing on the proximity of rubigo to rubeo, which means "to become red." "What," Haimo asked rhetorically, "did he [Joel] mean by rust (rubiginem) if not anger, which inflames as it touches"18 (In Joel 1). Just as Haimo linked anger and smiling, so too here he connected it to ruddiness.

§27. Anger could be sinful, and when it was it was a specific kind of sin. Hebrews 4:12, in which the author describes the word of God as a sword "reaching unto the division of soul and spirit," prompted Haimo to develop a long excursus on soul, spirit, and body. Some sins, he remarked, are accomplished by an action of the body (actu corporis). Others, however, "pertain more particularly to the spirit than to the body, such as hatred, anger, deceit, envy, and the rest of this kind which exist without an action of the body"19 (In epistolam ad Hebraeos 4). Haimo returned to this distinction when he explained the first verse of chapter 7 of 2 Corinthians. That verse reads, in part, "let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of the flesh and of the spirit" (2 Corinthians 7:1). Paul, Haimo explained, "did not say simply let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement, but from all defilement of the flesh and the spirit. Defilement of the flesh is fornication, adultery, homicide, and the other sins that are committed with the body. Defilement of the spirit, that is, of the mind, is anger, envy, pride, ill will, and the rest of the evils that are conceived of in the mind"20 (In epistolam II ad Corinthios 7). As an aspect of anima, human anger was a "great agitation of the mind," (grandis commotio animi) in contrast to "the calmness of mind that is not easily made angry by injury,"21 which is how Haimo explained the difference between ira and modestia in his commentary on Galatians (In epsitolam ad Galatas 5).

§28. Even though the body could indicate anger, through reddening or smiling, anger was not a sin of the body. Sins that were performed with the body were finite actions. That is, they either occurred or they did not. But Haimo used the vocabulary of movement to describe the emotional states that made up the sins of the mind/spirit. This language helped him explain the changes in divine emotions that he found in scripture. By positioning God's emotions as a simulacrum of human emotions, and then describing the mutability of divine affect, Haimo highlighted the same potential in humans. The implication of this was that emotions such as anger were not inherently vicious. As Haimo explained, anger was unavoidable, and simply being angry was not enough to qualify as sinful.

V. Anger Transformed

§29. Haimo thought that anger was natural, something that God allowed to humanity. However undesirable and sinful, as Haimo explained in his exegesis of Ephesians 4:26, "certainly to be angry is permitted, because it is human"22 (In epistolam ad Ephesios 4). Carolingian authors offered various interpretations of the command of Ephesians 4:26. Some sought to understand the type of anger meant by these texts. Others worked to explain how anger could not be sinful, usually by focusing on its purpose. Haimo's contemporary Sedulius Scotus (fl. 840–860) began his explanation of Ephesians 4:26 by asserting that "clearly, he [Paul] said this about your fury (furori vestro) and vices."23 (Collectanea 5) That is, he argued that the Pauline command was not about anger (ira) at all, but rather about furor. "Your irascibility," (iracundiam vestram) he continued, threatened to obscure the light of Christ's justice (Collectanea 5). Sedulius here drew upon the long-standing exegetical tradition of Christ as light and the devil and as shadow and darkness. At no point, however, did he explain how exactly one both became angry and yet did not sin, or how one struck the delicate balance between anger that merely threatened sinful obfuscation and anger that effected it.

§30. Earlier in the ninth century, in his Via Regia, Smaragdus of Saint-Mihiel (c. 760–c. 840) used this same verse to discuss not anger itself but the motivation behind it. Writing for Louis the Pious, he advised the "mildest king" that "he who through anger seeks vengeance against [his] brother makes a place for the devil in his heart"24 (Via Regia 24). The abbot's larger goal in this part of the text was to collect prohibitions against anger in an effort to persuade Louis to temper justice with mercy. Ephesians 4:26 was one of many verses that he marshalled in support of this position, which he began by citing general prohibitions against anger and then more specific proscriptions against royal anger. By heeding the apostolic warning, he concluded, along with the rest of the scriptural admonitions, Louis would assure himself of eternal happiness (Via Regia 24). Smaragdus's advice on how to be angry and yet not sinful was not to confuse ira with vindicta. The former, implicitly at least, was permitted but only up to the point where it took the form of the latter, which belonged to God.

§31. Ephesians 4:26 presented Haimo with a varied exegetical tradition and therefore an interpretive challenge. This verse contains two sentences, and Haimo divided his explanation of it similarly into two parts. Paul instructed the Christians of Ephesus to "be angry, and sin not." For this, Haimo offered a dual interpretation. If someone had, in his words, "left the path of righteousness by the persuasion of the devil,"25 then anger was a permissible response (In epistolam ad Ephesios 4). Getting angry with oneself led to vigils and fasting, which in turn led to reestablishing a proper relationship with God. The kind of anger that he called permissible (because it was human) was directed outward, but within limits. Like Smaragdus, Haimo wrote that this kind of anger was only allowed if it did not lead to vindicta, that is, to punishment or vengeance. Revenge, he explained quoting James 1:20, "was not human, because 'the anger of man works not the justice of God'"26 (In epistolam ad Ephesios 4). But unlike Smaragdus, one aspect of Haimo's solution to the problem of anger without sin was to place it firmly within the context of correction, whether self- or other-directed.

§32. The remainder of verse 26 ("let not the sun go down on your anger") offered Haimo a guide to further explain how one could be angry and yet not sinful. Paul's solution emphasized the duration of one's anger, and Haimo's exegesis of this verse did likewise. Once again one phrase led to two different interpretations. The first of these was communal. Haimo advised his readers that if they found themselves angry with a neighbor (proximum, here probably a fellow monk), they should be reconciled before sunset, "so that anger might recede from you"27 (In epistolam ad Ephesios 4). If this temporary anger was not sinful, then that which endured must be, which led Haimo to the second interpretation. Bolstered by Malachi and Jeremiah, Haimo marshalled scriptural support for the identification of the sun with Christ, and with the absence of the sun with God's judgment. He then warned that sinful behavior threatened to remove the light of divine justice. "Let not the sun go down on your anger," he repeated, "that is, beware that the sun of justice, that is Christ, should not recede from you because of your anger and because of your sin"28 (In epistolam ad Ephesios 4). When Christ recedes, the "devil the prince of shadows arrives"29 in his place (In epistolam ad Ephesios 4). Haimo did not warn against anger. He focused not on a fixed emotional state but instead on the movement from one state to another, of becoming angry and then, before too much time had passed, ceasing to be angry.

§33. Haimo emphasized that transformation of anger was both a desirable outcome and an attainable one, through both human and divine agency. In Ephesians 4:26, as Haimo interpreted it, it was the active effort to reconcile that caused one no longer to be angry. In other parts of this exegetical corpus Haimo also wrote of the transformation of anger, this time though anger changed through divine rather than human agency. The authors of both Jeremiah and Hebrews referred people as vasa irae—vessels of anger, and Haimo found this a useful way to discuss the transformation of anger. In his Apocalypse commentary, for example, he mentioned "those who were vessels of anger he [God] made vessels of mercy"30 (In Apocalypsin 20).

§34. More commonly, though, Haimo reprised the phrase "sons of anger" (filii irae) found in Ephesians 2:3. But what could it mean to be a son of anger? Paul told the Ephesians that humans were "by nature children of anger," (natura filii irae) to which Haimo added "and children of vengeance," (filiique vindicate) which is consistent with both his views on the naturalness of anger and his glossing of anger with judgment and vengeance throughout his work (In epistolam ad Ephesios 2). He wrote on several occasions about the relationship between anger and baptism. As Owen Phelan shows, over the course of the ninth century this ritual grew in significance, becoming "a compelling approach to interpreting personal moral life and broader social relationships" (Phelan 2014, 208). Haimo's near contemporaries Dhuoda (d. 844) and Nithard (d. 844), although not clergy, contributed to the "harmony of shared assumptions" about the sacrament (Phelan 2014, 217). Hamio, however, added an emotional dimension not present in the works of Dhouda or Nithard.

§35. As Haimo described the cleansing and transformative power of the sacramentum that lay at the heart of Carolingian culture, he included a connection to anger, treating it as if it were some sort of pollutant. Perhaps Haimo had the purification of baptism in mind when he homilized that when the author of the Epistle of James wrote "in meekness receive the ingrafted word, which is able to save your souls" (James 1:21), he meant "in meekness, that is receive without anger and contrariness through correct faith with a pure mind"31 (Homiliae 86). And when discussing baptism in the Jordan, based on John 1:28 ("These things were done in Bethania, beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing"). Haimo explained that "before they came to baptism they were sons of anger and sons of the devil. But when they descended with their sins in baptism they emerged sons of peace and sons of God through adoption"32 (Homiliae 7).

§36. Haimo must have viewed the audience for his homilies with some suspicion, or at least he was concerned that they would not understand the spiritual significance of what they witnessed during baptism. He strove to convince them that what they observed externally also revealed an internal, spiritual renewal. Haimo used the distinction between the pre-and post-baptismal state as a series of criteria by which both he and his audience could distinguish between the faithful and the unfaithful, between the saved and the damned:

yet only the minds of the faithful understand this, that when someone comes to baptism he descends a son of anger, and ascends a son of reconciliation; he descends a son of the devil, and ascends a son of God through adoption; he descends a son of discord, and ascends a son of peace. Before the eyes of the rest of the foolish and the unfaithful, who want to believe nothing other than that which they see, all that takes place during baptism appears to be a game. But in the end, when they will see the glory of the saints, they will declare: "These are they, whom we had some time in derision, and for a parable of reproach. We fools esteemed their life madness, and their end without honour. Behold how they are numbered among the children of God, and their lot is among the saints" (Wisdom 5:3–5) (Homiliae 108).33

In his discussion of affective transformation we find the key to understanding Haimo's views on anger. It was undesirable, certainly, and potentially sinful. But it was natural, and since it was unavoidable the solution was not to set an unattainable standard to never get angry. It took another motus or commotus or perturbatio, but what mattered to Haimo was not that his Carolingian contemporaries experienced anger but that this emotional experience changed.

§37. Whatever else they might be, what we call emotions are not timeless, eternal, and unchanging. They certainly are not things that one picks up, puts on, tries out, sets aside. They are not strategies that can be gleaned from social playbooks. They are embodied, lived experiences, at the same time individual and communal. As Rosenwein notes, there are really multiple angers, that is, multiple life experiences that Haimo would have labeled as ira, each one "so profoundly delightful, horrible, frightening, and powerful" (2020, 7). She points this out to caution against an overly simplistic understanding of anger as monolithic and always threatening or dangerous. Haimo can help us achieve this same understanding (perhaps, given his comments on joy and hope, for other emotions as well). He did not judge anger by the status or position of the person who became angry. He did not assume that anger was always a vice. For Haimo, it was not becoming angry that mattered, but remaining angry (or not). It was an experience, a state of being-in-the-world, that contained within it the possibility—and for Haimo the desirability—of changing that state of being. But anger was natural, and not external to the experience of being human. As such, Carolingians could not help but be angry.


1. Subridentem Deum, irascentem significat, quia et nos quando irascimur, interdum subridemus. I want to thank Rutger Kramer and Cullen Chandler for organizing the session at Kalamazoo where I gave the original version of this paper, and to the audience for their questions. Cullen has been a patient and kind editor for this version. My thanks also to Kelly Gibson and Noah Blan for reading an early draft. Kelly also helpfully provided scans of some of the sources. I thank especially the two generous and helpful anonymous reviewers. This paper is stronger for their input. Its weaknesses are mine alone. Interlibrary Loan restrictions during the Covid-19 global pandemic made it impossible to consult critical editions of some texts, including Jerome's Amos commentary and Haimo's commentary on Isaiah, as well as Étaix's work on Haimo's homilies. [Back]

2. Inter vinum et siceram iuxta anagogen hoc arbitror esse, quod vinum una e pluribus perturbatio est: verbi gratia, libidinis, avaritiae, gulae et invidiae. Sicera autem, id est ebrietas, omnes in se vitiorum continet passiones. Quas rectius Latino sermone perturbationes possumus dicere, quod statum mentis evertant, et ebrios eos efficiant, et faciant eos nescire quid agant. [Back]

3. Quatuor hae pestes quatuor perturbationes, per quas diabolus humanum genus devorat, significant, hoc est: cupiditatem et metum, laetitiam atque tristitiam. [Back]

4. Possunt per quatuor cornua, quatuor animi perturbationes intelligi, duae ab opinatis bonis, et duae ab opinatis malis, gaudium scilicet et spes, metus et dolor. [Back]

5. Qui ergo a saeculi curis et perturbationibus dormit, et potest dicere cum sponso: Ego dormio, et cor meum vigilat, meretur ab angelo suscitari, et angelica visione atque allocutione perfrui. [Back]

6. Ira est grandis commotio animi. [Back]

7. Vinacia vero, id est reprobos, misit in lacum irae Dei. Per lacum vero irae Dei, damnatio intelligitur inferni, vel sententia divini iudicii, in quem lacum mittentur reprobi. [Back]

8. Vel per torcular possumus intelligere tribulationem praesentis vitae. Calcat Dominus torcular, hoc est qui sunt in torculari, id est omnes electos, quos purgat per huius vitae angustias. [Back]

9. Aliquando iurare ad exaggerandam vim rei, et ut terrorem incutiat auditoribus. Sic dicitur et irasci more humano, cum semper ipse idem maneat, quatenus dum audivimus illum iratum, metuamus peccare. [Back]

10. Irasci autem Deus dicitur, non quod humanis perturbationis subiaceat, sed quod nos qui delinquimus, nisi irascentem audierimus Dominum, non timeamus eum. [Back]

11. Licet autem legamus plerisque in locis omnipotentem Deum iram habere, non debemus putare quod in illum cadat ulla perturbatio, quia ipse semper idem manet iuxta quod Psalmista dicit: Tu semper idem ipse es, sed ira illius appellatur vindicta et ultio ipsius, quam ille sine aliqua mutabilitate exercet, secundum quod ei sapientissimus orator dicit: Tu autem. Domine Sabaoth, cum tranquillitate iudices. [Back]

12. nos quando irascimur, interdum subridemus. [Back]

13. ut possit salvari, versa ira Domini ad misericordiam. [Back]

14. cilicio poenitentiae, et plorate ut iram Domini placare possitis. [Back]

15. Si, inquit, egeris fructus dignos poenitentiae, tollam a te captivitatis malum et iram indignationis meae. [Back]

16. furor est subita animi turbatio, ira autem diu manet. [Back]

17. Per grandinem ira omnipotentis Dei designatur, unde scriptum est: Ira Domini sicut grando descendens. Per ignem autem, odium et invidia intelligitur reproborum adversus sanctos. Statim enim ut apostoli coeperunt praedicare grandinem, id est, vindictam Dei, reprobi accensi sunt zelo et odio, quod per ignem designatur. Quod autem post ignem sanguis sequitur, ad damnationem reproborum pertinet, quia videlicet velut homicidae humanum sanguinem fundentes, ita tales qui insecuti sunt veros praedicatores, peribunt, dicente Domino: Qui odit fratrem suum, reus erit iudicio. Et Ioannes: Qui odit fratrem suum, homicida est. Non autem mirum, si inde electi clementiam inveniunt, unde reprobi iram incurrunt. [Back]

18. Quid per rubiginem, quae dum tangit incendit, nisi ira innuitur? [Back]

19. Iterum sunt alia quae pertinent specialius ad spiritum quam ad corpus, ut est odium, ira, dolositas, invidia, caeteraque huiusmodi quae sine actu corporis constant. Et quia [Back]

20. Non dixit simpliciter, mundemus nos ab inquinamento, sed ab omni inquinamento carnis et spiritus. Carnis inquinamentum est fornicatio, adulterium, homicidium, et caetera vitia quae corpore perficiuntur: spiritus vero, id est, mentis inquinamentum, est ira, invidia, superbia, mala voluntas, et caetera mala quae in animo cogitantur [Back]

21. Modestia, est mansuetudo et lenitas mentis, quae laesa non facile irascitur [Back]

22. Permittit quidem irasci, quod humanum est. [Back]

23. Evidenter hoc dicit vitiis et furori vestro [Back]

24. Vides ergo, mitissime rex, quia qui per iram in fratrem expetit vindictam, in corde suo diabolo facit locum [Back]

25. et a via rectitudinis diabolo suadente receditis. [Back]

26. quod iam non est humanum, quia Ira viri iustitiam Dei non operator. [Back]

27. recedat ira a vobis. [Back]

28. Sol non occidat super iracundiam vestram, id est, cavete ne propter vestram iram et propter vestrum peccatum recedat sol iustitiae, id est Christus, a vobis. [Back]

29. adveniatque diabolus princeps tenebrarum. [Back]

30. deinde eos qui fuerunt vasa irae fecit vasa misericordiae. [Back]

31. In mansuetudine, hoc est sine ira et disceptatione suscipite per fidem rectam in mente pura. [Back]

32. quia antequam ad baptismum veniant, filii irae et filii diaboli sunt: sed cum in baptismum descendunt, descendentibus peccatis, filii pacis et filii Dei per adoptionem ascendant. [Back]

33. Solae autem mentes fidelium noverunt, quia cum aliquis ad baptismum venit, descendit filius irae, et ascendit filius reconciliationis: descendit filius diaboli, et ascendit per adoptionem Filius Dei: descendit filius discordiae, et ascendit filius pacis. Caeterum coram oculis insipientium et infidelium, qui nihil aliud, quam quod oculis vident, credere volunt, totum quod in baptismo agitur ludus esse putatur. Unde in fine, visa sanctorum gloria, dicturi sunt: Hi sunt quos aliquando habuimus in derisum et in similitudinem improperii: nos insensati, vitam illorum aestimabamus insaniam, et finem illorum sine honore. Quomodo ergo computati sunt inter filios Dei et inter sanctos sors illorum est. [Back]

Works Cited

Primary Sources

Ambrosius Autpertus. 1975–79. Ambrosii Autperti Opera. Ed. by Robert Weber. Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Medievalis 27, 27A, 27B. Turnhout: Brepols, 1975–1979.  [Back]

Haymonis Halberstatensis (=Haimo of Auxerre). 1844–1891. "Commentariorum in Isaiam libri tres." In Patrologiae cursus completus, series latina. Edited by Jacques-Paul Migne, vol. 117. Paris: Migne. [Back]

———. "Enarratio in duodecim prophetas minors." In Patrologiae cursus completus, series latina. Edited by Jacques-Paul Migne, vol. 117. Paris: Migne. [Back]

———. "Expositionis in Apocalypsin b. Johannis libri septem." In Patrologiae cursus completus, series latina. Edited by Jacques-Paul Migne, vol. 117. Paris: Migne, [Back]

———. "Homiliarum sive concionum ad plebem in evangelia de tempore et sanctis." In Patrologiae cursus completus, series latina. Edited by Jacques-Paul Migne, vol. 118. Paris: Migne. [Back]

———. "In divi Pauli epistolas expositio." In Patrologiae cursus completus, series latina. Edited by Jacques-Paul Migne, vol. 117. Paris: Migne. [Back]

Sedulius Scotus. 1844–1891. "Collectanea in omnes beati Pauli epistolas." In Patrologiae cursus completus, series latina. Edited by Jacques-Paul Migne, vol. 103. Paris: Migne. [Back]

Smaragdus of Saint-Mihiel. 1844–1891. "Via Regia" In Patrologiae cursus completus, series latina. Edited by Jacques-Paul Migne, vol. 102. Paris: Migne, [Back]

Secondary Sources

Boddice, Rob. 2018. The History of Emotions. Manchester: Manchester University Press. [Back]

Contreni, John J. 2002. "'By Lions Bishops are Meant; By Wolves, Priests': History, Exegesis, and the Carolingian Church in Haimo of Auxerre's Commentary on Ezechiel." Francia 29:1 (2002), 29–56. [Back]

———. 1991. "Haimo of Auxerre's Commentary on Ezechiel." In L'École carolingienne d'Auxerre de Murethach à Rémi, 830–908. Edited by Dominique Iogna-Prat, Colette Jeudy and Guy Lobrichon, 229–242. Paris: Beauchesne. [Back]

Levy, Ian Christopher. 2006. "Trinity and Christology in Haimo of Auxerre's Pauline Commentaries." In The Multiple Meaning of Scripture: The Role of Exegesis in Early-Christian and Medieval Culture. Edited by Ineke van 't Spijker, 101–123. Leiden: Brill. [Back]

McGrath, Kate. 2019. Royal Rage and the Construction of Anglo-Norman Authority, c.1000–1250. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave MacMillan. [Back]

Ortigues, Edmond. 1991. "Haymon d'Auxerre, théorician des trois orders." In L'École carolingienne d'Auxerre de Murethach à Rémi, 830–908. Edited by Dominique Iogna-Prat, Colette Jeudy and Guy Lobrichon, 181–228. Paris: Beauchesne. [Back]

Peyroux, Catherine. 1998. "Gertrude's furor: Reading Anger in an Early Medieval Saint's Life". In Anger's Past: The Social Uses of an Emotion in the Middle Ages. Edited by Barbara H. Rosenwein, 36–58. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. [Back]

Phelan, Owen. 2014. The Formation of Christian Europe: The Carolingians, Baptism, and the imperium Christianum. Oxford: Oxford University Press.  [Back]

Rosenwein, Barbara H. 2020. Anger: The Conflicted History of an Emotion. New Haven: Yale University Press. [Back]

———. 2016. Generations of Feeling: A History of Emotions, 600–1700. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [Back]

———. 2006. Emotional Communities in the Early Middle Ages. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. [Back]

———. 1998. "Introduction." In Anger's Past: The Social Uses of an Emotion in the Middle Ages. Edited by Barbara H. Rosenwein, 1–8. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. [Back]

Rosenwein, Barbara and Riccardo Cristiani. 2018. What is the History of Emotions? Cambridge: Polity Press. [Back]

Shimahara, Sumi. 2007. "Le succès médiéval de l'Annotation brève sur Daniel d'Haymon d'Auxerre, texte scolaire carolingien exhortant à la reform." In Études d'exégèse carolingienne: autour d'Haimon d'Auxerre. Edited by Sumi Shimahara, 123–164. Turhout: Brepols. [Back]

———. 2006. "La représentation du pouvoir séculier chez Haymon d'Auxerre." In The Multiple Meaning of Scripture: The Role of Exegesis in Early-Christian and Medieval Culture. Edited by Ineke van 't Spijker, 77–99. Leiden: Brill. [Back]